Friday, October 26, 2012

CrossFit Radio Interview. Think Outside THE BOX.

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by Justin Judkins of CrossFit Radio. CFR is CrossFit's weekly podcast interview show that started in 2008. You can find it on iTunes, or through the CrossFit Journal. Over the last few years I have listened to dozens of these podcasts during long workouts or long drives here in California. I enjoy Justin's positive style and hearing how the top CF athletes and coaches think. Speaking with him was a pleasure and an honor. The podcast can be found on iTunes, or directly from the CrossFit Journal website (which, by the way, is a great deal for 20 bucks a's a treasure-trove of information).

During our interview we discussed the stark differences between Adventure Racing (24hrs to 7+ days nonstop multisport navigation racing) and Obstacle Racing (5k to marathon length obstacle course races and runs), how magazines have confused the two lately, and how CrossFit athletes can get involved in either of these events. We spent a small amount of time on my athletic background, but my main focus with this opportunity was to distinguish the differences while explaining how one might train to compete or complete as a soloist or with a team.

CrossFit athletes are a competitive tribe. Why not take that competitive spirit and multi-dimensional fitness and express it outside of the Box? Adventure Racing might not be for everyone, with it's requirement for land navigation skill, but Obstacle Course Racing is EXPLODING so finding one in your area should not be a problem. If you just want a taste of Obstacle Course Racing, The Tough Mudder is a "friendly" untimed event. They are well-run, and attract upwards of 10,000 athletes at each event.  For athletes interested in a timed, competitive event, the Spartan Race series in particular offers a RACE that will challenge the fittest CrossFitters and trail runners. "Elite Athletes" have the "Elite Heat". Others can enter the "Open" category and compete against their friends and teammates. More information on Spartan Race can be found at

It seemed appropriate, if not necessary, to end the interview with a question and CHALLENGE to CrossFitters. I had to take the golden opportunity to throw down the gauntlet...

What are you going to do with all of that indoor fitness you have built through CrossFit? Is nuking yourself for no other purpose than to nuke yourself again, faster, sustainable?  Get outside! Play! Challenge yourself and your buddies outdoors, with your friends, your dog, your significant other. On your feet, on a bike, on a kayak. Bring your dog! EXPRESS that fitness in the sunshine or moonlight. Make it fun. Compete in a Spartan Race, or build a team, learn navigation and enter an Adventure Race. Just get your butt in the mountains, ocean or woods and leave your Garmin at home. Enjoy the music of your breath and throbbing heart beat instead of Skrillex, just for a day.  Think Outside "The Box".  Give that training and heroic work capacity a purpose... deeper than number on a whiteboard.  By pushing yourself or just finding your center OUTSIDE, you'll find out who you really are INSIDE.

For a listen, click below:

If you are interested in giving Adventure Racing a go, check out my team DART-nuun's promo video we made a couple years ago. This is footage we shot with our GoPro cameras during races around the world, and will give you a good idea of what you have in store.  If you're interested in finding a race in your neck of the woods in the USA, CheckPoint Tracker has a series of Sprint (6-12hr), 24hr to Expedition (72-100hr) Adventure Races, as well as a teammate finder.  If you are interested in learning about adventure racing-style land navigation, obstacle racing training and want information on how to hydrate and  fuel, contact me directly at enduranceresearch AT gmail DOT com 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Dawn to Dusk 12 Hour Adventure Race. Swan Song?

Team DART-nuun 2nd Place (4 person co-ed)
Jen VanGorder, Ryan VanGorder, Rick Baraff & Sean Clancy

I stopped racing "full time" in 2010 after the National Championships. This is my only race in 2012. Even though we didn't win this time around, if this was my "swan song" it ended perfecty at the finish line. With friends and loved ones. My focus lately has shifted, but the friendships developed over literally thousands of hours of training and racing are as indelible as the bushwacking scars on my shins. The lessons learned and insight from gritty wins and heartbreaking losses are far more valuable than the last decade's professional opportunity cost. I look forward to applying those for the rest of my life.

Adventure Races are about the journey to the start line as much as the finish line. I fly, drive or train-hop home from every one of these races feeling extremely blessed to have such amazing friends as teammates. It's a deal breaker for me, actually. I would have stopped a few years ago if I didn't enjoy competing and exploring with these people so damn much!

The morning after the race Team DART-nuun, our buddy Kyle from Tecnu, Michael Kohn and Julian from Racing With Giants and Race Director Yishai Horowitz joined together for what will go down in breakfast history (yes, in our world of Post-Race Caveman Feedings we have breakfast history) as the most epic meal ever consumed.

With endless rolling hills, mountains and Lake Santa Margarita, San Luis Obispo is ideally suited for adventure racing. Race Director Yishai's race is the highlight of the season for many and now I know the reasons. Put it on your calendar! Yishai packed quite a bit of racing into just 12 hours, and SLO is one of the nicest towns you could hope to visit before and after your race. It doesn't matter if you are a beginner or professional adventure racer; put this race on your "must do" list.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Miracle Question

(Re-Posted from The Angry Therapist, which I highly recommend)

Suppose you woke up one morning and by some miracle everything you ever wanted, everything good you could ever imagine for yourself, had actually happened - your life had turned out exactly the way you wanted it.

What will you notice around you that let you know that the miracle had happened?

What will you see?

What will you hear?

What will you feel inside yourself?

How would you be different?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

The CrossFit Goal Setting Course

“The Greatest Adaptation to CrossFit Takes Place Between The Ears!”
- CrossFit Founder Coach Greg Glassman


As an ultra-endurance athlete and coach, I have studied the "mental game" for almost 20 years now. Lately I have been re-reading a book on Neurolinguistic Programming ("NLP") to improve the way I communicate with myself and others "in the moment". At the same time, I have been reading Daniel Kahneman's fascinating new book which includes an examination of how our "fast" and "slow" brains make decisions, remember, judge and distort past experiences or possible outcomes:. It's called "Thinking Fast and Slow".

One of my key take-aways from both of these books is the way we view and define the quality of our past, present and future is naturally heavily influenced by our intuition, unconscious empirical bias ("priming") and sometimes irrational emotions. However, your mindset, world-view and attitude are controllable things that heavily influence relationships and the outcome of any task or goal. This is up to you. This is a learned skill-set.

OK, so what tools, skills or "Jedi Mind Tricks" do the most effective and successful people leverage to overcome these natural tendencies? The answer is not as complex as many believe. What I have found over time is that there are, in fact, Jedis among us. They do use their Jedi mind tricks to navigate life's harshest times; those of our own choosing or not. Many come from paths of great adversity; military, ultra-endurance sport, or martial arts. The common thread is that they have chosen the path of great resistance and encountered countless obstacles along the way. Each is a test of their mindset and resolve as much as physical or intellectual capacity.

The good news is these skills aren't innate gifts, but learned and accessible to anyone willing to change.


A few months ago I wrote about how we often battle the "devil" sitting on our shoulders. We hear whispers of very convincing excuses and discouragement in times of stress. Any CrossFit or endurance athlete knows EXACTLY what I mean. Your body may be working hard, but your brain must work even harder to block out the constant noise of negative thoughts. Repeatedly fighting through to the end, whether it is during a hard 20 mile run, the last round of a fight or the last round of Fight Gone Bad, brings adaptation. There is a very real re-calibration of our capacity, both physically and mentally.

"We are enriched by life's harsh moments, especially those of our own choosing"-Mark Allen, who won 6 Hawaii Ironman Championships after trying and "failing" 6 years in a row.

One cool thing I have learned from sport and studying NLP is how actively control our mindset in life's harsh moments with a positive pretense, impacts our odds of "success". This can be while negotiating, speaking with a loved one, racing, a tough workout or even a fight. Actively managing our mindset is a SKILL that must be learned and practiced. By evaluating obstacles with a positive pretense, creative solutions appear and success becomes a much more likely outcome...


If you are asked to climb a 50 foot rope to the top of a gym. And you're terrified. You could tell yourself "It would be just my luck to fall and break my leg, but I won't let myself fall off this rope"...OR... "I am going to safely, methodically and powerfully use my best possible technique to climb this rope to the top before descending safely back to the gym floor".


With an actively positive pretense you tell yourself confidently what you CAN do, rather than what you want to AVOID. This is a familiar concept to my fellow cyclists: When riding down a technical, dangerous trail you want to pick the line where you want to go, not where you don't want to go...or you will surely crash. You have to focus, decide and believe!


There are many people in the world qualified to lecture coaches, athletes and business owners about the power of maintaining a positive pretense in our thoughts and words. Very few do it better than CrossFit's Greg Amundson.

Greg Amundson is known as one of the original "Firebreather" CrossFit athletes, trained by Coach Greg Glassman, from the very first CrossFit in Santa Cruz. He is a legend in the CrossFit community with an impressive background in the military, law enforcement, martial arts and as a federal agent with the DEA. Think of the most passionate person you have ever met, bursting with knowledge, experience and rich stories. Now, quadruple that energy and you almost get the idea.

After first learning about Greg a couple years ago through the CrossFit website, I have scoured the internet in search of his speaking and writing. While recently reading about NLP and Kahneman's studies, I came across Greg's new traveling seminar, the "CrossFit Goal Setting Course". The seminar is currently touring CrossFit boxes around the world. Coincidentally, the very next stop on the tour just happened to be near my home in Santa Barbara, California. I jumped at the opportunity and on Saturday drove the 40 minutes down Highway 101 to CrossFit Ventura for a day of learning from "The Jedi".

Greg resigned from his position with the DEA this year in order to work full-time for CrossFit, presenting his Goal Setting Course. He shares his message in the context of colorful, relevant stories from his diverse background. With his animated delivery and strong presentation skills, this approach keeps it fun and engaging, making the material quite memorable.

Make no mistake: the course was not all didactic. Throughout the day there were several interactive exercises that required everyone to implement the taught skills right away, on the spot. We used Goal Setting workbooks to list specific goals with timelines to achieve each one, while creating powerful anchors to reinforce our successes.

Like many driven, self-motivated athletes, I felt like I went into this course already familiar with the gist of the subject matter. However, the way Greg presented the material, framed his stories and taught anchoring was especially powerful. This was a powerful learning experience. I would highly reccomend Greg's course to anyone, regardless of background.

At the end of the day, Greg offered to stick around for two hours to work with anyone one-on-one to discuss their individual goals, offering on-the-spot coaching. Most of the crowd (predominantly CrossFit Box owners and trainers) took advantage of this awesome opportunity. I left the seminar with some solid take-aways and skills that I can implement right away.

"It's mind over matter, Clancy. If you don't mind, it doesn't matter!"-Spoken to me by a Navy instructor, 1996, while I blasted far beyond physical and mental limits...both my own and what I considered humanly possible at the time.

From the CrossFit Goal Setting Site:

When harnessed, practiced and understood, Goal Setting and Positive Self-Talk are powerful assets to any Athlete. Although the physical attributes of CrossFit Athletes are indeed elite by any standard, the mental, emotional and character development that is forged through the difficulty of the workouts is also worthy of our study and contemplation.

Goal Setting and Positive Self-Talk are applicable to any physical or professional endeavor. When mastered, the lessons we learn in the CrossFit Affiliate gym are a tool that may be successfully applied to academics, relationships, business, leadership and profession.

During an early CrossFit Seminar in the winter of 2003, Coach Glassman remarked to Greg Amundson that, “The greatest adaptation to CrossFit takes place between the ears!” These influential words shaped the course of the next six years for Greg. As an athlete at the original CrossFit gym in Santa Cruz, California, Greg was able to witness first hand the power of the mind in the development of his own physical fitness and that of his peers.

In June, 2008, Greg published an article in the CrossFit Journal called Coaching The Mental Side of CrossFit. The article captured the attention of the CrossFit Community and resulted in immediate requests for speaking engagements that would elaborate on the mental adapation of CrossFit. For this reason, we like to think of the CrossFit Goal Setting Trainer Course as a creation of the CrossFit Community. The CrossFit Course Goal Setting Course is a true reflection of the amazing history, culture and Community of CrossFit.

Many of the greatest subject matter experts and athletes in the CrossFit Community have contributed to the development of the CrossFit Goal Setting Course. Coach Greg Glassman, Coach Mike Burgener, Coach Brian MacKenzie, Coach Kelly Starrett and Lisbeth Darsh have all shared strategies for mental toughness and personal success. Powerhouse CrossFit Games Athletes Josh Everett, Rob Orlando and Tommy Hackenbruck, through their example in competition and leadership, have also provided to the content of the Course.

Whether you are a veteran CrossFit Athlete or brand new to the Community, the CrossFit Goal Setting Trainer Course will educate and inspire you to unleash the power of your mind, body and spirit.


Recommended CrossFit Journal Resources

Forging Elite Leadership – CrossFit Journal Article
Coaching The Mental Side of CrossFit – CrossFit Journal Article
CrossFit HQ History – CrossFit Journal Article
Staying In The Fight – CrossFit Journal Article
•Accomplishment of a 10 Year Goal [video] – CrossFit Journal Video
•What It Takes To Be A Leader [video] – CrossFit Journal Video
•Positive Self Talk – The Greatest Adaptation [video] – CrossFit Journal Video